ECS KN1 SLI Extreme: SLI on a Budget

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If we took a moment to reflect on some of the biggest technological advancements in recent history, SLI has to be on the short list.  Thanks in part to the increased bandwidth of PCI Express, NVIDIA paved the way for running two matching PCI Express based video cards concurrently, resulting in what we know today as SLI. 

As with virtually any technology, there are positives and negatives to SLI.  First, the cards used must be the same and designed specifically to support SLI.  Second, the power requirements of today's NVIDIA graphics cards will require many to add a new PSU to their upgrading budget, in many cases.  However, these added considerations can yield some impressive performance gains in the long run, while adding longevity to your investment.  What's even better is that user's can build a SLI system on a budget and still appreciate real performance gains.  Even the pairing of two affordable GeForce 6600 GTs can result in some sweet returns.

The latest SLI ready motherboard to come our way is actually a revision of the ECS KN1 Extreme we reviewed in July. This time around it's the ECS KN1 SLI Extreme we're running through the testing track.  Back then, we found the KN1 Extreme to be a well rounded motherboard that lacked some overclocking features, contrary to what the "Extreme" label implied.  Nonetheless, its clean layout, competitive pricing and excellent retail bundle made for an attractive all-around product. With the KN1 SLI, ECS traded in a PCIe x1 slot for a second PCI Express x16 slot, bringing support for SLI to the mix while making a few other adjustments as well.

Specifications:  ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
A Slick Looking Powerhouse
CPU
Socket 939 for AMD Athlon™ 64/ Athlon™ 64 FX processor.
Socket 939 for AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core/ Athlon™ 64/ Athlon™ 64 FX processor.
High-performance Hyper Transport CPU interface.
Support transfer rate of 2000/1600/1200/800/400 mega-transfers per second.

CHIPSET
NVIDIA nForce4 SLI

MEMORY
Dual-channel DDR memory architecture
4 x184-pin DDR SDRAM DIMM socket support up to 4 GB
Support DDR400/333/266 DDR SDRAM

EXPANSION SLOT
2 x PCI Express x16 slot ( SLI mode: x8, x8 )
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
3 x PCI slots

STORAGE
Supported by nForce4 SLI
-- 4 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices
-- 4 x Serial ATA2 devices

RAID0, RAID1 & RAID 0+1 configuration
Supported by SiI3132
-- 2 x Serial ATA2 devices
-- RAID0, RAID1, PM and eSATA support

AUDIO
Realtek ALC850 supports Intel 8 channel audio
Compliant with AC'97 2.3 specification

DUAL LAN
Realtek 8100C 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet controller
Marvell 88E1111 Giga LAN PHY


SYSTEM BIOS
Award BIOS with 4Mb Flash ROM
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specification

IEEE 1394a
TI TSB43AB22A support 2 x IEEE1394a


REAR PANEL I/O
1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
4 x USB ports
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
2 x Digital SPDIF (Optical & Coaxial) out
1 x Serial port (COM1)
1 x Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, Mic_in)

INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V connector
1 x Auxiliary 4-pin +12V connector
1 x FDD connector supports two 360K~2.88MB FDDs
2 x IDE connectors
6 x Serial ATA connectors
1 x IrDA for SIR header
2 x 1394a headers
3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
1 x Front panel switch/LED header
1 x Front panel audio header
1 x 26-pin LPT header
CD in header
CPUFAN/NB_FAN1/CASFAN1~2 connectors

FORM FACTOR
ATX Size 305mm*244mm

The retail bundle of the KN1 SLI Extreme didn't change all that much from the original KN1.  With this edition, ECS opted to scale back the SATA cabling to four instead of the six included in the original KN1's package, trading two cables for a single external SATA adapter.  We also found the necessary SLI bridge clip to tie two SLI ready graphics cards together.  Aside from that, the package was the same, with some interesting options.  Along with a Molex-to-SATA power cable adapter, a single IDE and floppy cable, ECS included an Ethernet cable and an external parallel port adapter for legacy support.  There were also Setup and Software Application CDs along with a well documented User's Manual.  Rounding out the package was an ECS case badge, custom I/O shield and a bracket with two USB ports and two FireWire ports that can occupy a PCI slot or be converted to fit into a 3.5" drive bay. 

   

Lastly, ECS included their Top Hat BIOS recovery device which is essentially a second BIOS chip that can piggy back to the board's chip to recover the on-board ROM from a bad flash.  When we first encountered this with the original KN1 we found it to be peculiar, as many other products integrate a second ROM to the motherboard.  Nonetheless, the process works as promised.

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